Oh friends, we've been giddy to share this post with you for WEEKS, and today is the day! Have you ever wondered what happens when a wedding photographer becomes the bride?! After years of being behind the camera, Kerri of Kerri Lynne Photography is marrying her adorable fiancé Derek, and is now the one planning HER dream wedding. The lessons she's learned as a bride-to-be are priceless, and more importantly, are a wonderful reminder to slow down and enjoy the journey. We adore Kerri, her outlook on her wedding day, and her commitment to a beautiful marriage... and we're counting the days until we get to see her say "I Do!".
One year ago on June 18, the love of my life got down on his knee and asked me to be his wife. I knew it was coming, but I was still shocked, excited, and I felt the significance of that moment. It's really the out of body experience people describe! It's like you're watching yourself outside of yourself, seeing that shiny ring and his eyes sparkle at the same time!
You might think we went home and started planning the wedding immediately. And we didn't. We enjoyed the time with our families. And the first few months we actually worked harder on our marriage than planning our wedding day, which I will never ever regret. My first lesson as a bride was learning to give myself time and space to enjoy being engaged and focus on our actual marriage. Because the marriage is what Derek and I will have after the beautiful day is packed up and of course documented!
As a wedding photographer, I also knew that I was booking weddings for 2017 fast- and even though it was 2016 I needed to start looking for my date and venue and protect our own experience amidst the experience I have with all my couples. So we actually booked our wedding venue a month or so before we were actually engaged!
Derek and I both love landscape, open spaces, woods, and farm to table food. We looked at tons of venues, with the help of my mom, to find something that fit our budget and our tastes. We found out quickly that completely DIY weddings had a lot of moving parts involved and could be more costly than other venues. Bringing in catering, tents, dance floors and bathrooms was just a little beyond the planning we wanted to do. Then, my parents mentioned Red Maple Vineyard in Highland, NY. Of all the wedding venues I have photographed, I always said RMV and a Catskill venue are the only 2 that I would actually get married myself. A family friend was married at RMV, so my parents had a familiarity with it and thought it may be a good fit. Once we started working with the owner, we saw everything lining up into place. And Derek and I felt really good about it – so we signed! I learned to go with my gut, and what feels right. We didn’t need to keep researching a million places once this one felt like our wedding venue.
Next, of course, we booked our photographer. As you can imagine, this was the most important piece to me aside from marrying Derek. All I wanted in my heart was to marry him, and to have my favorite photographer and mentor capture our day. I have been following Katelyn James’ work for years, and she inspired me right at the beginning of my career to see joy and light in people. To see into them and show who they really are, and let their personalities shine. I love the way she serves and loves her clients, and teaches so many people to do what she does. She has been a true light in the industry and in my life. So when we booked her, my dream had come true!! Seriously! And although it was a decision that cost more in our budget, I learned to prioritize what is important to me and not sacrifice on something that we could make happen – even if it could mean cutting in other areas. I say this to all of my couples and truly believe it – I believe that photography is a decision that if you follow your gut and choose wisely, you won’t just celebrate it for a day, but for decades.
I have written articles for years about how to choose vendors (DJ, hair and makeup, florist, etc) but when it actually came time to choose the rest of mine I saw how difficult it really was! We took it one step at a time, and selecting our DJ and makeup artist was easy, as I’ve worked so closely with these vendors for years and really trust them! But some of the other vendors were a little harder to choose. I learned quickly that if I met with someone that my personality didn’t jive with, but they did great work, the work didn’t overcome the fact that I had to feel comfortable with them. I also learned the reverse – that if I met with a vendor whose personality I loved, but I couldn’t feel just right about the product – that wasn’t enough either. I learned that choosing the right vendor is a delicate balance of loving who they are and the product they are offering. You want to feel not only that you can trust what they will do for you, but you can trust how they do it – that they care about you and have your best interest at heart. This helped me see how my clients feel when I serve them wholeheartedly, and that has a special value all on its own.
I have always liked a certain wedding dress designer (which I won’t publish online until after my wedding!), and I found myself pinning the images to Pinterest often! Then, one day, I was scrolling through Instagram and saw an image that a photographer friend had taken – and I was literally swooning over this dress! I saw it and thought, “That’s it. That’s the one.” So I located it, found it in NYC, and made an appointment to try it on. Unfortunately, not only was it not the right dress, but I had an experience that didn’t make me feel valuable – and I was literally almost a bride in tears. I understood then why people get so emotional on Say Yes to the Dress. After feeling so discouraged, I made an appointment at a smaller dress shop that carried the same designer, and as soon as I went in, I loved that it was a gorgeous, intimate setting, with sales representatives that asked me good questions that would help them choose what was right for me. I tried on several dresses of similar style, and when I put on my dress, I got teary eyed for the first time. And I knew that I had found it. I learned to listen to my gut when the first dress didn’t turn out to be “the one” and I waited longer until it felt right.
The best thing I did in my wedding process, thanks to my lovely cousin and maid of honor Brittani, was create a master list of what needed to be done. Although I am so organized when it comes to making lists and timelines for photographing weddings, as a bride, when it comes to managing dozens of details and tasks at once, that leaves me feeling very overwhelmed. (Now I also know where the term “overwhelmed bride” comes from!). So, my MOH asked me to do a “brain dump” and literally list everything that I needed to do before the wedding. Everything from buying items online like signage, to creating save the dates and bridal shower invitations, to finding my jewelry and shoes, to ordering gifts. Then, we categorized them by “due date.” We gave every item on the list a rough date of when it needed to be done by. She also created “To Do “ lists for her, for my fiancé, and for our moms, all on Google Drive! And ever since that day in the fall, we have “check in” calls bi-weekly or around the major due dates, where we assess what has been completed, and what due dates need to be pushed back a little. I learned that making lists and checking in with them is critical to staying organized, especially as details change and develop over time. This has been such a saving grace in my wedding process because this is not my personal strength!
One thing that has made my wedding process easier has been time. We were engaged in June, but decided to not get married until the following October. So we had 1.5 years to plan! Plenty of time! That is what enabled me to shift deadlines as I went through my to do list. But I know not every bride has that luxury. Within the constraints of the time that you have, decide what is important, and pour your time into that. And the more margin you can give yourself for each task, the better. Don’t assume you’ll find your dress the first time around (if you do, bonus!). Don’t assume it will take you 3 hours to write 100 thank you notes. Assume everything will take more time than you think – and you will probably be right. And don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends or family so you can allocate your time where it is best spent!
GRACE + PERSPECTIVE
As a photographer, I always knew that weddings brought up a ton of emotions, but now I was learning that planning weddings bring up their own sets of them! Weddings can be so sensitive, as they bring up so many opinions about decisions as they get made. Opinions between you and your fiancé, your parents, his parents, and the advice of relatives and friends. Some people view weddings more traditionally, while others have a more modern approach. So communicating with others throughout the process is really important. Sharing your feelings while being sensitive to where theirs come from isn’t always easy, but so important. All the relationships that are going to be in your lives are working together on one event – and this will probably be the only time that happens! So planning a wedding will not be perfect, and neither will the wedding day. Choose your battles wisely and what you choose to fight for. Sometimes it’s important, and other times it’s not. You should make compromises – but not on something you’ll regret for years afterward. You should have a beautiful wedding and be happy. But while weddings are a beautiful and symbolic day, they are also one day. Your marriage is your whole life long. Ultimately, setting yourself up for a beautiful life, rather than just a beautiful day, always wins.
Photography by Katelyn James Photography